would only take effect following a judgment of liability against the Authority. Plaintiffs fail to distinguish between an immediate legal interest and a speculative economic one.
Finally, defendants argue that, because the Authority is an indispensable party, this court should either dismiss Count I of the Complaint, or transfer the entire case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Because of the available alternative forum, the court will grant defendant's request for a change in venue, rather than dismiss Count I of the Complaint.
28 U.S.C. § 1404 permits a transfer in the "interests of justice." Relevant factors in deciding a motion to transfer include: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) ease of access to sources of proof; (3) the cost and ability of obtaining attendance of witnesses; (4) factors that make the trial of a case easier, more expeditious and inexpensive; and, (5) factors affecting the public interest. Cain v. Dedonatis, 683 F. Supp. 510, 512 (E.D. Pa. 1988); Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 67 S. Ct. 839, 91 L. Ed. 1055 (1947). In weighing these factors, a court should not grant a motion to transfer unless defendant can demonstrate that the balance of interests strongly favor a change in venue. B.J. McAdams, Inc. v. Boggs, 426 F. Supp. 1091, 1103 (E.D. Pa. 1977).
In this case, the relevant factors, when considered as a whole, indicate that defendant has carried its burden even when substantial weight is given to plaintiff's choice of forum. Plaintiff's choice of forum is usually entitled to paramount consideration, Shutte v. Armco Steel Corporation, 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 910, 27 L. Ed. 2d 808, 91 S. Ct. 871 (1971). An exception to this general rule occurs when the operative facts underlying the alleged cause of action have no material connection with the forum chosen. Luca Oil Drilling Co. v. Gulf Oil Corp., 593 F. Supp. 1198, 1200 (W.D. Pa. 1984); Kreisner v. Hilton Hotel Corp., 468 F. Supp. 176, 177 (E.D.N.Y. 1979). Here, the litigation giving rise to plaintiff's claim was in Virginia, as was the negotiation and execution of the settlement agreement in question.
Factors that would make the resolution of this dispute easier, more expeditious and inexpensive strongly militate in favor of holding these proceedings in the Eastern District of Virginia. Absent a transfer, this court would have to dismiss Count I of the Complaint, thereby forcing plaintiff to refile his claim in another jurisdiction, most likely the Eastern District of Virginia or a Virginia state court. Because Lesser & Kaplin's claim against the Authority arises from the same operative facts as those underlying its claim against American, relitigation against the Authority in a separate action would duplicate the cost to the parties and the burden on judicial resources, subject at least some witnesses to additional inconvenience and risk inconsistent results.
The court recognizes that plaintiff is a Philadelphia law firm, some of whose members will likely be witnesses in this action. Because of the relative proximity of Virginia to Pennsylvania, however, transfer of this case to that forum will not significantly impact upon plaintiff's ability to present its case, and will on balance serve the interests of economy and convenience. See generally Kreisner, 468 F. Supp. 176 (plaintiffs' litigation strategy must yield where considerations of unnecessary expense and judicial economy are implicated). It is not unreasonable to require attorneys who were prepared to spend substantial time litigating in Virginia to spend one day there to testify in support of their claim for fees. This is particularly so when they would have to do so in any event to pursue their first claim against the Authority.
Finally, a number of factors indicate that transfer in this case will serve the public interest. First, the capability of joining the Authority and all other interested parties in Virginia, which is impossible in this forum, is an important consideration that weighs heavily in favor of changing venue. See Vassallo v. Niedermeyer, 495 F. Supp. 757, 59 (S.D.N.Y. 1980).
Second, this case will turn on questions of Virginia law, and "construction of State law is best left to courts most familiar with it." Kreisner, 468 F. Supp. at 179. Among other questions, a court will necessarily have to decide (1) whether "attorneys-at-law" in the attorney's lien statute includes persons not admitted to the Virginia bar, which, in turn, may require an interpretation of the local rules of the Eastern District of Virginia; (2) how various rules regarding the priority of competing security interests in Article 9 of the Virginia Uniform Commercial Code interact with the Virginia attorney's lien statute; (3) when and how a lien is perfected under the Virginia statute; and, (4) whether a lien is effective against persons who were not adverse to the lienor's client in the original suit. Resolution of these and other related questions is best left to the district court which has the greatest familiarity with Virginia law and its own local rules.
Third, if the defendants are found liable for attorney's fees under Count II or Count III of the Complaint, a court will have to determine the reasonable value of Lesser & Kaplin's services with reference to prevailing standards in the place where the services were performed, the Eastern District of Virginia. This is a determination more easily and reliably made by the court in Virginia.
For the reasons stated above, defendants' motion for change of venue will be granted, and this case will be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 12th day of October, 1989, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Transfer to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this case be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.